[Warning! Here be spoilers]
As predicted, the season finale of the fifth Game of Thrones cycle hit viewers between the eyes with numerous plot twists and cliffhangers, while the death knell tolled ceaselessly for characters both beloved and abhorred. An inclusion of controversial content and subversion of popular fantasy storytelling tropes has come to define this series, broadening its fan base to include all those who appreciate a bloody good story.
Season five saw fan favorite Tyrion Lannister journeying to Meereen to meet Daenerys Targaryen after his escape from King’s Landing. As it turns out, Daenerys was in desperate need of reliable counseling. Unable to control her dragons, she chained two of them up under a pyramid, announced an engagement to nobleman Hizdahr zo Loraq, and reopened the fighting pits in an attempt to win her people’s favor.
The Sons of the Harpy, a rebel organization, were fighting her regime after her decree outlawing slavery which destabilized their way of life. Their campaign began with assaults on Daenerys’ Unsullied troops in the city streets and culminated in a tense battle at the pits, that ended with her dragon Drogon arriving just in time to fly her away to safety.
Meanwhile, at Castle Black, Jon Snow was voted Lord Commander. Many of his men came to regret this decision, when they learned of his plan to let thousands of wildlings through The Wall. Upon arriving at Hardhome to bring the wildlings back with him, Jon, his small escort, and the wildlings fought a brutal battle with four White Walkers in which vast numbers of men, women, and children were killed and resurrected by the Walkers to be added to the army of the dead.
Arya Stark traveled to Braavos and ended up training to be an assassin at the House of Black and White. Her training was derailed when she realized Ser Meryn Trant, the top name on her kill list, was also in Braavos. Arya’s sister Sansa was brought to Winterfell by Littlefinger to take part in an arranged marriage to Ramsay Bolton, the sadistic torturer whose mutilation and psychological manipulation of Theon Greyjoy transformed him into the pathetically servile Reek. Ramsay’s rape of Sansa before the eyes of Reek was a huge controversy as viewers questioned whether the act actually served the characters or was simply exploitative.
In King’s Landing, Cersei’s arming of the Faith Militant gave their leader, the High Sparrow, the power to imprison her rivals Margery and Loras Tyrell. The plan blew up in Cersei’s face when her cousin Lancel, now one of the devout, informed on her for cheating on King Robert several years back, and Cersei too now sits in a cell. Cersei’s brother Jaime went with Bronn to Dorne to bring their daughter Myrcella back home, but their mission failed when Oberyn Martell’s bastard daughters, the Sand Snakes, intervened.
Game of Thrones is populated with at least twice as many characters as any other show on TV. This requires a large portion of table setting in the early parts of each season, as the show-runners maneuver each chess piece into play. However, as the seasons draw to a close, patient viewers are always well rewarded in final episodes.
This brings us to last night’s season finale. Subscribers can catch the episode on HBOGo, whereas the rest of us can look to television providers such as DTV and Xfinity to get caught up. Sunday night saw some of the bloodiest action yet: Theon and Sansa leapt from the walls of Winterfell following a massive battle between Bolton and Baratheon troops, Ellaria Sands murdered young Princess Myrcella by poison, Meryn Trant was killed by Arya Stark, Daenerys nearly succumbed to a gigantic Dothraki khalasar, and Jon Snow suffered a devastating death at the hands of his own men (several subplots being neglected here for the sake of brevity). In television today, there’s nothing else quite like it. The irresistible blend of fantasy, fiction and good old fashioned storytelling present in the GoT series will surely draw fans back once more to Season 6. There’s nothing else like it, and it’s the reason Game of Thrones viewers will continue to return, despite having their hearts broken, year after murderous year.
Guest post by Maria Ramos.